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Job Is Actually a Mutual Relationship

December 01, 1985

Reading the Viewpoints of William F. Dwyer II and Ian I. Mitroff in "Should Job Be a Personal Relationship--or Strictly Business?" (Nov. 24), and given my experience as a business consultant and a psychologist, I find it necessary to propose a third position, which integrates the views of the authors.

With qualification, I can agree with Dwyer's suggestion to employees to regard their jobs as a business arrangement. However, I am quite certain that his advice is likely to go unheeded. The difficulty lies in the fact that one's job becomes the symbolic repository for many of a person's unmet wishes. Thus, the significance with which the job is imbued is directly related to the degree and intensity of unfulfilled personal needs.

Further, the work context tends to replicate family dynamics so that one's position on the job mirrors one's role in his or her family of origin. For instance, the son who was the family scapegoat is likely to find that he is also scapegoated on the job. Were we to accept Dwyer's advice, we would have to renounce the mutual dependence, or interdependence, of employer and employee.

In fact, though, that relationship requires both parties in order to exist.

This point brings us to Mitroff's view that trust is an important ingredient for good quality products. Clearly, the presence of trust would greatly aid in maintaining an atmosphere of cooperation. In such an atmosphere, less energy and fewer resources would be needed for the upkeep of the organization, thus allowing the available assets to go toward the development of better products and higher profits. However, for trust to develop, it would be necessary for employers and employees to acknowledge the mutual dependence that does exist between them. Happily, this is already under way as demonstrated by recent changes in labor contracts and General Motor's Saturn project.

It would seem that the optimal stance required by both parties would involve the realistic understanding of the limits of a job in fulfilling one's emotional needs, while holding in mind the complementary relationship that exists between an employer and employee. Further, like in any other relationship, the level of trust that develops should be based on a realistic appraisal of one's experience in the relationship, and not on preconceived notions or wishes. Here I agree with Mitroff's admonition that "We need to function as total human beings . . .," but would caution that we would face the same obstacles mentioned in discussing Dwyer's proposals.

Clearly, were this accepted by both sides, then we would not only talk about the emotional needs and dependencies of the employee, but also about those of the employer. Let it be recognized that we are traveling on a two-way street.


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